TOKIO, JAPAN.- Japan on Wednesday approved its first national legislation banning smoking inside of public facilities, but the watereddown measure excludes many restaurants and bars and is seen as toothless.
The legislation aims to lower secondhand smoking risks ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics amid international calls for a smoke-free Games.
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But ruling party lawmakers with strong ties to the tobacco and restaurant industries opted for a weakened version. The upper house approved and enacted the bill into law Wednesday after it was approved earlier by the lower house.
Last month, Tokyo separately enacted a stricter ordinance banning smoking at all eateries that have employees, to protect them from secondhand smoke. The ordinance will cover about 84 percent of Tokyo restaurants and bars. But the law still allows many exceptions and the Tokyo Games may not be fully smoke-free.
Japan often has been called a smokers’ paradise. Until now it has had no binding law controlling secondhand smoke and ranked among the least protected countries by the World Health Organization. That has brought pressure from international Olympic officials.
The new national law bans indoor smoking at schools, hospitals and government offices. Smoking will be allowed at existing small eateries, including those with less than 100 square meters (1,076 square feet) of customer space, which includes more than half of Japanese establishments. Larger and new eateries must limit smoking to designated rooms.